Compared to offence and pitching, defence is the least appreciated and glamorous aspect of the game of baseball. However, this doesn't make it any less important, with Kevin Kiermaier serving as a shining example of this.
Kiermaier was, quite simply, sensation in the outfield during 2023. He won the Fielding Bible Award as best defensive centre fielder in baseball, received his fourth Gold Glove and his 2.2 dWAR was his best since 2017.
On the flip side, the 33-year-old did not get selected for the All-Star Game, which was a travesty. Regardless, this cannot take away from his success last year, or his standing as one of the best statistical outfielders in Major League history.
For all the attention that is -- quite rightly -- paid to Keirmaier's defence, he also had a fine season with his bat. At one stage on course for his best ever offensive year, he ended up with the second-best batting average of his 11 year Major League career, as well as his best slugging percentage and OPS since 2017.
With all this said, there was an understandable collective sense of sadness when the 2015 Platinum Glove winner took to social media after last season, to essentially say goodbye to Toronto. This seemed to be reinforced by referring to the city and the Blue Jays in the past tense, when he was interviewed by Mike Wilner on the Toronto Star's podcast, Deep Left Field.
However, as the weeks passed, Kiermaier had still not signed for anyone, presenting an opportunity for the Blue Jays to strike. And as 2023 came to a close they did just that, re-signing him to a one-year deal worth $10.5M.
With the Fort Wayne, Indiana native back in tow, the Blue Jays should once again prove to have one of the best outfield's in all of baseball, which will in turn make the defence good overall. What will be more interesting, will be if he can continue to be effective on offence.
In this respect ZiPS have Kiermaier projected to not be quite at the same level this coming season, with six homers and 39 RBI contributing towards a .245/.306/.377 slash line and .684 OPS. In fairness though he is in line to hit last in the lineup, but overall, he should continue to prove invaluable to the Blue Jays in 2024.